I am now all settled in back home. I am sitting here happily next do my dog and cat as I write this. When I got to the airport I was so tired from my flight, but so very happy to see my boyfriend. I am almost shocked by how easy it was for me to re-adjust to being here. I didn’t even have a problem with jet lag or anything. I thought I would be absolutely exhausted since when I arrived in Portland it would have been 6 in the morning in Vienna which was the time I was acclimated to. Surprisingly I was really only a normal amount of exhausted and I went to bed at a normal time for this time zone and woke up even earlier than I normally would and still functioned just fine right away! When I arrived in Vienna I was scared and lonely and I think it was the exact opposite when I came home. It was relieving being here and everything seemed easy because I could talk to people in English, and be understood by them, if there were any problems. I was able to go straight to a motel when I got back and get rest for the night but then I had to get up the next morning and go to a leadership conference for the weekend so it was a little challenging moving straight on to something else without having a break at all or time to really let everything that had just happened sink in. Now I finally have a few days to relax and get back into the groove of my life here before I move into a new apartment and go back to work.
I am writing this on my last morning in Vienna. In 45 minutes I will be getting into a taxi headed back to the airport for a dreaded 17 hour flight. There isn’t a whole lot to report on for this last week. Mostly I rested and got over my sickness and studied for finals. Overall I think my finals went well. My German final was super relaxed and not like any other final I’ve ever had before. Our teacher even let us ask some questions and told us what some words meant! My Music History final was a lot more tough. I didn’t feel too great about it because there was so much material covered and it was all way over my head. My teacher gave me some really good comments on my other assignments this term though so I am sure that overall it will be fine. Last night we had a concert that all of the music students had to play in and I had a violin solo. I think the concert went really well and it was a lot of fun visiting with everyone after the concert for the last time. I think this was the first time that I was sad I’m leaving. It was hard saying good bye to my teachers and site directors. They were all really emotional and sad to see us leaving. Well I need to finish getting my stuff together now. I am excited to get home. My boyfriend will be picking me up from the airport and then the next day I’m off to a leadership conference where I’m being hopeful that I can do laundry and get sleep as well… I hope everyone enjoys the rest of their trip!
Tomorrow I play violin at a concert here in Vienna and the next morning I get on a plane headed back home! I think for the most part my experience has been close to what I expected it to be, though I did not expect so many things to be done differently here. I have never really traveled before so I didn’t have a good idea of what to expect. I also have to say that I had a harder time adjusting to life abroad than I thought I would and I don’t think I ever fully became comfortable with life here.
I have really enjoyed my time in Vienna but I am very excited to be back home. I am really going to miss the incredible architecture and the great pastries! I am looking forward to knowing where I am and not having a language barrier to deal with all the time. I am so very excited to see my boyfriend, my horse, and my family.
I have been noticing some things around Vienna that would never happen the same way in the US. For instance they do road work with traffic still flowing by basically figuring out what to do and where to go on it’s own without any flaggers or detours or anything. They have also been doing a lot of work on and near the sidewalks and they will have people working giant machinery while pedestrians walk right beside it and it isn’t blocked off at all. Giant CAT claws will swing right by your head and machines will be lifting things up in the air and they just keep letting people walk through while this is happening and most of the workers don’t wear helmets or protective gear of any sort. This has been pretty shocking to me since in the US we constantly see road work areas barricaded off and people showing you exactly where you can and can’t go, while here it seems like they basically let people figure it out on their own.
This week I have been a lot more focused on violin and classes as the program is nearing its end so I need to prepare for finals and a concert I have to perform in. A couple of days ago my German teacher took us on an excursion to an apartment in Heiligenstadt that Beethoven lived in. While he was living in this apartment he finished his 2nd symphony and some piano sonatas and variations.
After we left Beethoven’s house we went to a cute restaurant and got some wiener schnitzel!
We ended our day by going to the tree circle of life in the Vienna woods. It is a big circle made up of a bunch of different types of trees. We all walked around and found the trees that corresponded with our birth date and they have a plaque in front of the trees that talk about the characteristics of people who were born then. My tree, the kiefer, is in this picture.
After we left the tree circle we walked on a long trail through the Vienna woods that led back into the town where we could get on a streetcar to get back home. Also, last week we went inside the Votivkirche (Votive Church) but I forget to include a picture of it then!
Those were the most significant things that happened since my last post. Unfortunately I have become sick so I missed classes yesterday and today I am actually supposed to be in Salzburg right today and tomorrow but I ended up staying home. My site director didn’t think it made any sense for me to go if I would just be miserable and she said that being surrounded by people and walking long distances in the sun would only make me feel worse and I think she is definitely right. Staying behind was a really hard decision because I so badly wanted to be there, but when I woke up this morning I didn’t even feel like going to the subway station let alone on a train for 3 1/2 hours followed by touring places all day long. When I went to the store today to get some tea and soup I realized I had made the right decision because the store is very close to where I live and when I got back I was absolutely exhausted and my throat was bothering me and I kept coughing really badly so there’s no way I could have had a good time there. It is better that I rest and heal before my finals and my concert!
So much has happened this week! Where to begin! I think it is really interesting that a lot of stuff in Vienna runs on the honor system. For instance for all of the public transportation here you just get on and off without ever having to show anyone your ticket and they trust that you have one. I’ve been told that every once in a while someone will be there to make sure you have a ticket, but I have yet to have this happen. They also have newspapers all over the sidewalks in these bags with a place for you to put the money for the paper, but there is nothing to stop people from taking the paper without paying for it. And A LOT of shops have merchandise outside of the store on the sidewalk for people to look at as they are walking by. This is really strange to me because of how many times I have been warned about protecting my stuff here so that I am not pick pocketed. Even the ATMs warn you to make sure no one is watching you enter in your pin so I find it really strange that somewhere that obviously has a lot of thievery is so trusting that people will pay for things.
In this last week I had my first violin lesson, which took place inside a palace!
After my lesson my instructor gave me and the other 3 students in my program free tickets to the concert he was conducting that night! The tickets were worth 65 Euro (or about $85) each!The concert was really awesome and a lot of fun.
The next day I went to the Tiergarten Zoo. The zoo here is the world’s oldest zoo and has been voted the best zoo in Europe. I really love zoos so I had a great time spending the day there. The zoo is really massive and has lots of animals that I had never seen before, like pandas and koalas
Then Last Sunday my roommate and I went to the Imperial Palace to see a series of exhibits there: the Imperial silver collection, the Sisi Museum, and the Imperial Apartments. We had such an awesome time there. We spent over 2 hours alone looking at the dishes used by the inhabitants of the palace. There were so many different collections of dinnerware for every type of situation. Unfortunately this was the only part of the exhibit that we were allowed to take pictures of so I don’t have any pictures of the Imperial Apartments to share.
While we were there we decided to take a break from looking through the museums so we sat in the cafe and I got Eis Schokolade! Yummy!
I have mostly just had classes in between now and then, but today we went on an excursion with our German teacher and she showed us the main university in Vienna and taught us about the school system here. Our classes are not actually at the school so we had yet to see it. It’s actually weird and cool because our classes are in an apartment, which means we have a bathroom and kitchen in our classroom, but it comes in handy for making lunch in between classes. She also took us to a house that Beethoven lived in for 8 years where he composed several symphonies and to a cafe in the Museumsquartier.
Basically everything has been going well here except for one mishap the other day. I tried to get cash from an atm at a subway station on my way home and the atm confiscated my credit card! It told me to wait a moment while it processed my transaction, and then a second later another message popped up saying that it was retaining my card for my security. This became a frustrating experience and caused me to be scared of using the atms here. I still don’t even know why it kept my card. I tried calling the number on the atm but it was out of service and I couldn’t call the bank that owns the atm because it didn’t have the bank’s name on it. When I finally figured out the correct person to get in contact with (after attempting to have several conversations with people who spoke no English), they told me there is no way for me to get my card back from them and that instead they will eventually mail it back to my bank in the US. I called my bank and it seemed that everyone who worked there had a different idea of what they can and cannot do. I was told that they can, can’t, and then can again, ship me a card internationally to replace the card that was confiscated. At the point when they told me they couldn’t send me a card here they said they could overnight a new card to my boyfriend’s address in the US so I had them to that and now apparently there are also two cards on their way to me here in Vienna! So much confusion.
Now that I have been in Vienna a little longer I have definitely been able to more fully adjust to life here. Before it seemed like most everything was a challenge, but now most daily things are not much of a problem at all. Between the little German I have now learned and the little English some people speak, I am able to communicate well enough with most people to accomplish what I need to. My classes are very exhausting as there is so much information given! Since there are only four people in my classes it takes much more focus and understanding of the material to make it through each class. My teachers are understanding though and for the most part try to accommodate us by making the work load reasonable. This last weekend all of us in the music program went to my site director’s house out in the countryside. It was so nice getting away from the city for a while and enjoying nice music and conversation in the garden. She showed us around her village and we saw a simple castle and some cool art made by a friend of hers that was inside the castle.
We also went on another excursion with our music history teacher and saw Belvedere Palace, Hotel Beethoven, and some buildings designed by architect Otto Wagner.
Classes, excursions, and homework have taken up a lot of my time and all of my energy so I have not done too much outside of those things. Besides that I mostly hang out with my roommate (who is now a great friend), catch family up on my adventures, and find good places to eat! I found another bakery with tasty pastries And as I am an avid pizza lover I am more than satisfied with the pizza here!
As I have now been in Vienna for a week, I am becoming much more adjusted to my new temporary home.
I am blessed to have been paired with such a wonderful roommate. Her and I have spent the majority of our time together exploring shops and restaurants while getting to know each other better. It is so wonderful to have someone to share this experience with who is always there at the end of every exhausting day. We have found a really great bakery just down the street from our residence hall. We went there for our first time this morning and are sure we will be frequent customers! We got topfenstrudel and hot chocolate! Yummy!
We learned that topfenstrudel is a treat that is special to Vienna.
My teachers and site director are also very friendly and resourceful so I have been enjoying being around such wonderful people. There are only four students in my program so we have very small classes and it enables us to cover a lot of material in class. My music history teacher took my small group of four on a tour of the first district our first weekend here. We saw so many beautiful buildings that I never could have even imagined existed.
I had a little surprise when I opened my violin case and discovered that my sound post had fallen out of place, but this allowed me to figure out the public transportation system quickly as I had to get to a violin maker’s shop to get it fixed. Since then I have met my private violin teacher and he is basically a celebrity around here. He is a very respectable guy who I know I will be able to learn a tremendous amount from and he is an excellent resource as well. As soon as I met him he offered me a free ticket to an orchestra concert he is conducting! I have been having a great time exploring the city, looking in shops, and finding restaurants with my roommate though we have had our share of difficulties adapting. After my first couple of days it seemed as though everything I tried to do was a challenge. Being that I came here not knowing any German there was a definite language barrier. Prior to coming here I never could have imagined just how many daily tasks I would have difficulty with. Normally simple things like doing laundry, cooking, making copies, and getting a grocery cart suddenly become a great challenge when instructions are written in a language you do not understand and the only people around to request assistance of do not understand your language. Many people I have run into don’t speak any English at all. My first morning here I was trying to find the place I was supposed to be meeting my site director at and I didn’t have a phone that worked here and I couldn’t find anyone who spoke English who could give me directions. Since then I have experienced many similar occurrences. When my roommate and I first went to the grocery store we couldn’t figure out how to get the grocery carts loose. There was a chain that connected them all and we couldn’t get it loose so we gave up because we were really embarrassed standing there trying to get a cart, knowing that there is something simple not known to us that everyone else there knew. Instead we were forced to carry everything in our arms so we were walking around with our arms full of groceries and everyone was looking at us funny. Later on we asked one of our teachers what the trick is to the carts and learned that you are supposed to stick a euro in a slot on the carts and then it is released and when you re-connect the cart after you finish shopping, the euro is returned to you. This has definitely been a huge learning experience and I feel much more informed about how things work now than when I first got here, but I know I still have a lot more to learn.
My trip to Vienna was quite the adventure. As I had previously never been to another country, or even flown on a plane, I didn’t know what was in store for me. With no flying experience, taking three planes over two days and spending a combined 16 hours sitting in airports was quite stressful. When I finally made it to Vienna I easily worked my way through the airport to the exit where my taxi driver was waiting for me holding a sign with my name on it. I was very happy to see him because I knew it meant I would be to my residence hall where I could sleep and then finally start familiarizing myself with Vienna like I had been waiting to do for so long. When I got to him I quickly realized he spoke no English, meaning we were not able to talk at all during our half hour drive together. The driving style in Vienna came as quite a shock to me after always living in small towns where people are generally safe and considerate on the road. The entire way he drove at extremely fast speeds while leaving no more than a few inches between him and the car in front of him, even through places in town where there were bikers and pedestrians trying to use the road as well! Several times he crossed lanes on a whim regardless of their being other drivers in the lane, at one point shoving a car off the road. While we were stopped at a red light there was a pedestrian in the middle of the road talking to another stopped car through the drivers window and the driver rolled up the window causing the man to come to our car and talk to my driver. They exchanged some words in German that I didn’t understand and then my driver rolled up his window as well and drove off. Shortly after that we arrived at my residence hall where I was to enter my birth date into a lock box to get the key to my room, as I was arriving in the middle of the night after the office was closed. By the time I got to my room I was quite scared to say the least. I suddenly was very alone in the middle of the night in a foreign place with crazy drivers and that was so far all I knew of my temporary home.
August 17th, 2012
…with the sound of music! And dear and birds and the hum of excitement! Mi, a name I call myself while going Fa, a long long way to…ride a train. Ti, a drink with jam (or nutella) and bread and that will bring us back to go, go, go, go. Which is what I have been doing!
My parents arrived in Salzburg and got to see my room and meet some of my friends. It felt sort of like they were visiting me at my place at WOU, except a little more jet lagged. I felt special being the one that knew how the bus worked, where to go, what kind of bottled drinks to buy and other things that helped me realize how much I had learned…. “I have confidence, and confidence I have!”
The next day, Gabi and I skipped dance classes for the day and went on the Sound of Music/Hallstat tour with my parents. I was so excited that she was able to come along and we got to spend the day together learning more about the Sound of Music movie and history of the people/story it was based on than we ever needed to know.
I enjoyed my last night in Salzburg celebrating my friend Helena’s birthday (she was 19 gooooing on 20!) and packing up the last few things. I learned about how each country in the EU has one of each type of coin and you can tell by the picture on the back just like the states on the quarters at home! It was weird to wake up on Thursday and have a normal breakfast but then have to say goodbye, as sad as it was, I was tired and distracted so it didn’t really sink in right then that I wasn’t coming back.
Next on the agenda was something I had been oddly looking forward to. After having studied WWII and the Holocaust two or three times and being a psychology major, I was fascinated by the concentration camp at Dachau. Even more interesting is the knowledge that this was one of the camps my grandpa’s division came to liberate. Thought they were too late and the camp was already liberated, he has shared memories of his arrival. When we first arrived it seemed welcoming, there was good weather and a friendly woman renting the audio guides to us. As the day progressed, I felt my mood drain like the miserable chill brought on by Dementors near by. The clouds didn’t literally roll in but a midwinter depression settled around me heavier and heavier. The tour began on the SS side of camp and was informational; it wasn’t till we passed through the gate…
…that I felt the kick in the gut and couldn’t smile for pictures. We observed the wide open roll car area where many had dropped, and walked through the prison till after mere moments I longed for air and sun and had to leave, an option many never had.
The tour didn’t lighten even outside again, for then we went into the bunkers to see the perfectly build beds (or else) and the perfectly horrid living conditions. It was lunch time now, and the thought of eating a granola bar I had cheerily packed seemed absolutely immoral. Lost in thought I continued to the end where I read about all the precautions set up to prevent escape and how some deliberately violated the system to end their misery. A few steps further I lost my breath. The crematorium, gas chamber and grave sites lay in front of me. I know this is an unexpected downer as lunch time reading material and I wouldn’t even be sharing, but it hit me so hard I wanted to record my feelings and it seemed relevant to include such a significant learning experience. I’ll spare you the grim pictures. Going inside a building that had seen and caused so much suffering, spooked me to say the least. I was haunted by the sight of the ovens and words on the plaque explaining how prisoners were tricked into the gas chambers.
We were short on time and had to rush on to our next destination. As anxious as I was to get out of that place forever I had to spend a moment at:
Shaking off the past few hours we moved on to our cute little Hostel in Fussen. We spent two nights here and toured the crazy King Ludwig’s places of residence.
I learned a bit more Bavarian history, visited with some swans in a beautiful lake and giggled at tourists from all over the world. We walked a lot, gawked a lot and clicked our cameras a lot. But not without relaxing by the river and dipping my toes…okay, wading into my upper calf and freezing my toes off.
Now I sit on a train riding through the countryside of Switzerland eating gummy bears from Germany and missing my little sister. It’s weird to be “vacationing” without her. I don’t have my usual companion’s company in rolling my eyes at whatever ordeal is currently flagging us as tourists or someone to fight over the last piece of chocolate with. So Kaylee, if you are reading this, imaging me making a joke here or side comment there that usually just the two of us snicker about and picture it going right past our parents as I lose half the joy of the moment realizing I’m laughing alone. Big sisters out there, hug your little sister for me.
There is quite a difference in lifestyle and attitude when one’s main objective is to travel and sight see. Until now, I think I had been taking on the roll of trying to learn to live as a local and absorb the culture around me; shopping at the local mall, eating at the same restaurant for a second or third time and having an actual closet to unload in. Now, I wrestle my suitcase every night, seek a new wifi password and see as much as I possibly can in the few short hours I have in a town. Sleep? Pfff I can sleep when I get home. Expect to get the dish that I think I’m ordering? No adventure in that, I’ll save that for The States. Breakfast on the Shilthorn like James Bond? Sign me up. The hills are alive with the sound of Her Majesty’s Secret Service! Headed into the glorious Swiss Alps for a few days, if only I had a tent!
It was decided. Tuesday (our last day off) Gabi and I would go to Vienna. This was fitting considering I had just visited Mozart’s birthplace and his next stop was Vienna too. We knew there were two other dancers there but they had left the previous day and we had no idea what their plans were or a way to contact them, so we made our own Itinerary. It was a wonderful train ride and bonding time through the Austrian countryside over coffee in the morning sun.
Another Water Closet Story:
At one point, we decided to test out the train’s water closet. Gabi disappeared for a moment and then returned, claiming the automatic door, was not so automatic. I investigated and got through just fine. However, once on the other side, I could not open the door to the bathroom. Feeling incompetent, I returned to share that I too was unsuccessful. We stealthily watched and learned as others managed to get through the doors with no problem. One man had an odd gesture near his head when he walked up. It was determined that one must discretely scratch their head and act casual as the secret admission trick. Once through the doors there were only minor struggles such as remaining balanced as the train shook, finding the toilet paper…and flush….and soap. All in all, we came out of the experience much more aware and feeling that next time the process will go smoothly so we will be less judged by onlookers.
Gabi and I enjoyed our day touring.
After this tour we set off in search of the famous violet gelato. We walked through the grounds around the Imperial Apartments just chatting and gaping when I saw a familiar face. WHAT are the chances?! I understand running into other dancers in little Salzburg…but Vienna?! We could not believe it. Even weirder, we found out that it was an accident that either of us had gone down this street, must be serendipity! To our further astonishment, all four of us had plans to go to the same cathedral, next on the agenda after a snack! Happily we continued until we found our delicious purple ice-cream and rested in the grass as we ate.
Next stop, together now;
The bummer was that we had just barely missed closing and could not take the rickety lift to the top to enjoy the view. So it became dinner time instead. Being the difficult, picky eater I am, I caused a lull in our flow as we debated where to dine. An Asian food restaurant in Nasch Market was the winner….a 3 to 1 vote. My patient friends assisted me in ordering something I would like and graciously shared their meals too (and by that I mean pressured me into tasting suspicious entrees).
It was time to go. We had classes starting early the next morning and it was already getting late. Our anxious faces rushed the waitress but we paid and speed walked to the catch the “U” (subway) to the train station. At the platform we realized our train left in10 minutes… the U didn’t come for another 6. This time our vote was consensus. We wouldn’t make it and now had another hour to spare in Vienna and would be arriving back in Salzburg around 2am. Oh well. These are the things you just have to accept with a shrug and a smile because there really isn’t anything else to do about it!
What an exciting, day. Travel books are right, you have to be flexible and just go with the flow. By the way, we learned that the phrases “Playing it by ear” and “Flying by the seat of our pants” are not ones that translate very well.
A random and unrelated comment, I really appreciate student-prices. It’s a good deal! I got into a live Mozart concert in a cathedral for only 10 Euros! So many places offer a discount and it always cheers me up!
Haven’t heard the footsteps recently (I think I’ve been too tired to wake up). However when we returned to our room after Vienna, expected a new roommate to have arrived, no one was here. This was good news because then we could turn the light on and not have our first impressions be waking up the new sleeping dancer 5 hours before she had to be up for class. But wait….the bed was made….and no other sign of new life….mysterious.
The next morning our roommate introduced herself and informed us she had slept in another room…..so who made the bed?
The new program has begun. Out with the….new and in with the new-er. Helena, Gabi and I spend most of our time guiltily not making friends and instead sitting in the exact same spots talking about the ones who had left. We selfishly figured it would be easier to not get attached to yet more faces we’d have to say goodbye to. I suppose that is the wrong attitude. This portion of the program is a good transition because it is significantly less strenuous and is smaller, so it’s a nice opportunity to get more one on one help from teachers before I have to take an unknown amount of time off of dancing.
I only have 4 more days in Salzburg. 3 days of dancing and being with friends and a day of tour when my parents arrive! I cannot believe that the time has come and they will soon be on their way here! Chapter 2 is about to commence. Woah.